The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Culture Corner:
The Killing Floor & the Great Influenza

Sep 13, 2021

Movie: The Killing Floor, 1984

Rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime or Xfinity on Demand

The screenplay by Obie Award winner Leslie Lee is from an original story by producer Elsa Rassbach. It is based on actual characters and events, tracing ethnic, race and class conflicts seething in Chicago’s giant slaughterhouses, where management efforts to divide the workforce fuel racial tensions that erupt in the deadly Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

Damien Leake stars as Frank Custer, a young black sharecropper from Mississippi who lands a job on “the killing floor” of a meatpacking plant C one of tens of thousands of southern blacks who journeyed to the industrial north during World War One hoping for a better life. He then joins the white-led union and organizes workers in the plant.

In 1919, a time period when workers were rising up all over the world, this award-winning film shows how courageous individuals stood up to the racist divisions and dirty tricks and led the fight against the death-causing profit machine. It is an inspiring film.

Today, faced with attacks on our workday and pay, attacks on our health care, increases in part-time, temporary and sub-contracted work, and endless overtime, workers more than ever need to join together to demand control of the wealth we create. The organizing efforts of the past light the way.

Book: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John M. Barry, 2005.

An engaging and masterful story of the flu pandemic of 1918. It reads like part detective novel, part science fiction. The book tells the history of medical science, how it was not a priority in the capitalist profit system, how the politicians’ main response was to urge people not to worry, to continue with war and business as usual, at horrendous cost. How some fought to alter course. Sound familiar? The author makes it come alive, tells it like the thriller that it is. A story worth reading, as now, 100 years later, it repeats itself.